By Daniel Stefanski |
Arizona’s Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction gave an update on the new Empower Hotline from the state’s Department of Education.
On Thursday, Superintendent Tom Horne provided an update on the Empower Hotline program and elaborated on some of the concerns that his staff had fielded since the March launch. According to the Department, “the Empower Hotline allows parents to report inappropriate content being taught that detract from teaching academic standards. These include those that focus on race or ethnicity, rather than individuals and merit, promoting gender ideology, social emotional learning, or inappropriate sexual content.”
In a release sent after the update, the Department made clear that complaints submitted through the Empower Hotline have revealed potential violations to state law and demonstrate that elements of Critical Race Theory are present in the public school system.
Horne issued a statement in conjunction with the press release, saying, “Despite those in ideological groups and some in the media that propagate the urban myth that CRT is not a part of the school system, we have evidence from the empower hotline, that there is enough CRT in our schools to constitute a problem, though it is obviously not universal. We also have evidence that schools have put systems in place to hide or attempt to hide critical personal information from parents about their child. This is in direct violation of Arizona law, A.R.S. §1-602.”
The Arizona Department of Education pointed to three examples of vetted concerns brought to staff through the Empower Hotline. The first came from Mesa, where the Department shared that “a teacher reported through the hotline that the Mesa school district has a training program for teachers that clearly states that certain Americans are ‘living under a system of white supremacy.’” Horne added, “That is a divisive and bigoted statement that has no place in education. We are individuals, entitled to be judged by what we know, what we can do, our character, and not the color of our skin. To its credit, Mesa is in discussion with the Department about this.”
The other two examples occurred in the Catalina Foothills School District and in the Chandler Unified School District. In the Catalina Foothills instance, the Department revealed that a concern was raised regarding “a spreadsheet distributed in this school district with a list of pronouns chosen by students. The email and attached file clearly show the school withholding information from parents contrary to A.R.S. §1-602.”
In Chandler, the Department reported that “a lunch time Gay-Straight Alliance Club was created to discuss gender issues but also included the distribution of emancipation paperwork, which a parent only knew about because parents found it in their students backpack. Both of the above are examples of activity contrary to Arizona law.”
Since assuming office in January, Horne has worked tirelessly to shed light on what children are being taught and exposed to in their schools, giving interested parents the transparency that many have demanded in increasing numbers over the past few years. Horne stated, “Since its inception earlier this year, ADE has been compiling information regarding inappropriate activity occurring in Arizona schools through the Empower Hotline. These complaints have come not just from concerned parents but also from teachers. When parents saw during COVID what students were being taught on their laptop, they were outraged by CRT content, and went to school board meetings, where some were treated rudely. The Employer Hotline directs them to a method to communicate their concerns.”
The Department also communicated that the Hotline had received 30,000 crank calls and emails since its inception in March, promising that “all legitimate complaints received through the Empower Hotline will continue to be accepted and investigated.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.